We've been bumping The Kills at our house lately, Cat and I– we both have work to do, and we want to recreate the excitement that Jamie Hince and Allison Mossheart gave us the other week at the Commodore Ballroom (along with their guns and LA Witch, who killed it as well). Cat's an artist and a teacher, and the two of us have similar issues with productivity and faith in the absence of inspiration. It's not that we don't want to work; it's just we need something to burn the same as steam engines, and we get sluggish when we go too long without the kind of coal you get at places like rock and roll shows.
A couple of Tuesdays ago, we were driving south from Whistler, the place where we met and the place we've always thought of as our home. Cat had just interviewed for a job, and I'd spent a few days womping with a dog, Bodhi, who we'd lived with in Pemberton a year or so earlier. Talk of the future has been a running theme and the CR-V was heavy with it– by the time my eyes were stealing glances at Serratus we had talked ourselves within the draws of anxiety. I was thinking quickly with the radio low and Cat was looking for a way in to the show (I f*cked up getting tickets, I was waiting for a cheque). My mind was everywhere from Trump to my magazines to Cat's career, and occasionally on moving all of it to Europe or Tofino or somewhere else with lots of new. I think Cat was pushing back the realization that her reality was about to gain momentum in the shift it started a few years back. Her interview had gone pretty well. She found tickets cheaper than face value, and the world showed us once again that it was there for us. The Sea-to-Sky started, in its ambling way, to once again become a road toward a beautiful and revitalizing night.
We ate at Hungry Guys Kitchen on Granville– finding a bit of decent food made us feel better about being downtown. A lot of nights my net emotional input in the city's entertainment district (in any city's entertainment district) swings into the red– I don't like seeing a lot of what goes down, though I do try to appreciate everybody's reasons for being where they are. It's hard on me, I'm too impressionable to endure so many sights I see as sad. But Vancouver was in her rougue that night, wearing the hints of the perfume she wore at the Olympics and at Game 5 of 2011's final– she looked good. There were enough late-twenties to mid-forties rockers around to give some texture to the flocks of club kids, and against the music crowd's denim even the young and painted looked to have some style. Cat recognized the some of the buskers and street folk– she's been in Vancouver long enough to know it now. We talked a bit about that. There's a lot more in the world that we connect with through shared experience now. It's very cool.
LA Witch was coming on as we got settled. The three-piece played surfy rock and roll with enough grit to give its California sound some edge. We found a spot near the front and the speakers hit me hard. The bassist was driving with a heavy foot and the sound shook my body. Cat loved it, she turned around and smiled a full moment, then looked back with all her focus to the girls on stage. I watched the guitarist, trying to learn her songs, and the crowd moved and whooped. Energy was high and the air felt good– LA Witch had the room warm within a couple of songs, and by the end of their set we were a better audience than a good chunk of those I've been part of in Vancouver.
I heard a couple 'encore's as the girls finished their set, and Cat and I flowed to one of the upper-level bars. I'd forgotten about the feeling the Commodore can give you, the feeling that you're tucked away in a microcosm of a night, framed softly by carpeted floors and simple chairs in a vignette within the room. We traded notes from the opening act and drank beer. Cat saw the freedom we're chasing as we build our life clearly in the moments when LA Witch was lost in the flow and feel of their music. It was right in front of her as the girls pressed power chord progressions through classic amps, as simple a thing as walking or sitting or pushing a pencil back and forth across a page– it excited and frustrated her at once. Why all of the dredging, the difficulty in our progression from blind and encompassing passion towards the refinement we feel we need for the next stage of our life? Why endure the slog when it can be so simple as putting everything we want and feel through the raw power of sound?
The history of Art and Fear in the Commodore's walls, the ambition and inspiration stomped into its floors, let momentum to our feelings and they swilled back and forth between us. Our souls passed into each other through the ether of the beer and the light and our love. As they did they picked up traces of the latent darkness that hides in corners, let loose by strivers as they grip onto refreshing highs. Yet we were numb to it, not feeling as much as observing the desparation inherent to lives of reaching. We saw it curl, rolling like an air mass off of the Pacific, but stayed safely tethered to the music and each other like Odysseus to his mast. Our peers, the other concert goers, sat in vessels of their own. I'm certain that some of them were aware of the Sirens we heard singing in the shadows, but had built sufficient character to block their teasing songs. Others had familiar madness in their eyes, and I'm sure some others were indifferent.
After our drinks we moved to a spot near the stage, and in a few moments the lights came down. We joined the cheering, and as the crowd called for them The Kills came purposefully to the stage. They opened with "No Wow"; Jamie played with precision and Allison established herself as a performer from the first bars. She span and rocked her head with sharp energy, emotive in her movements and trusting herself to catch her marks. She threw herself at the song's rise and I felt the rhythm in my chest; Cat's hips were moving in front of me and I let myself float.
The band took me through a meditation, leading and coaxing me through a series of excited and increasingly manic inner tangents. Jamie's tones and inventive playing set a steady backdrop to my thoughts, which raced and leaned into the deep and distinctive texture of his rhythm. As The Kills played they built me bridges to imagined futures, utopian visions in which discipline had sharpened Cat's and my creativity and let our work come to its own. The thin, confident lines of Cat's artwork grew from the blues of The Kills' dark sound, and I saw consistency between her style and the music– not the themes or subjects of her work particularly, but the style. The element she'd found during focused times of inspiration.
Allison pulled me back into the room when I needed air, finding me with familiar songs and honed stage presence. Her words took meaning from the context of my introspection, and against that background they were comforting and challenging at once. She reached out to the room as if inviting us to join the ranks of rock and roll's endlessly expressive chosen– "U.R.A. Fever" suggested we had already. She dared us to act through "The Tape Song." She showed us the power and volume that come with mastery, in control of her body and her voice while letting both act wild.
And we could tell they loved it every bit as much as we did. They were tired by the end of the show, they worked hard for the entirety of their set and four-song encore, but they were happy. There was no ego or entitlement coming from the stage, rather The Kills looked grateful. They smiled at times, both passively and at each other, and we could tell that they felt a satisfaction they'd been working towards long before they took the stage. They played and indulged, borrowing hip-hop hand waves during "Doing it to Death" and keeping the photo pit happy with spontaneous poses held just long enough. Their guns shone from behind the lights, keeping things tight and jumping between roles to complement loops or amp up bridges.
They closed with "Sour Cherry" ("go home, it's over") and a bow, finishing their show in a way that gave credit to what it was– a production, a refined and developed act built over years on a foundation of the raw energy we saw with LA Witch. Cat and I returned to the side bar. We talked about the way The Kills must have sharpened, how their presence carried so much more than their natural talent and chemistry. We talked about the art we want to do together, about some of the projects we've finished and about the good times we've had playing and creating. We held hands and kissed, and ordered a last beer. After some time my mind was wandering and I thought again about the ballroom. I told Cat about the characters I pictured sitting in our chairs at some moment in the past and thought to myself that we could become any of them, or anybody else we could imagine. We'd been reminded that the future starts slow, that we have time to settle in. We have time, we have time.